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Almost as depressing as the blame game is our reliance on the traditional PDR. You know, the one where we set two or three goals for an individual, give them 6 months or a year to achieve them (without any reference to their progress during that year or offer of support) and then we get together and rate them on their goal achievement and general performance over the previous period before repeating the exercise. 

But this is good isn’t it? Isn’t this what businesses are told they are meant to do? Many businesses even pride themselves on following the process. But here are my issues with the above format: –

  1. The goals are rarely tied towards the company, departmental, or team targets. Yes someone may need to improve the budgeting skills – but to what end? Unless your staff understand how their individual goals contribute to the wider picture and can see the why – it will be meaningless to all concerned and, most likely will not be achieved.
  2. A year, or even 6 months is a long time to wait to find out that someone hasn’t been able to achieve the goals set. If something is preventing them from achieving these or they need additional support, surely this should be picked up and dealt with straight away. Likewise, if goals are achieved in super-fast time – why wait 6 months or a year to set some more targets? But you can’t do this when the reliance is on structured 6-12 monthly reviews.
  3. The quickest way to demotivate someone is to miss or postpone a PDR because something else has come up. Doesn’t happen on your watch? Genuinely I have never been into a company where it hasn’t happened. And the reason it’s likely to occur is twofold. Firstly, you simply can’t plan that far ahead. Secondly, it rarely takes up just your time and that of the appraisee – now it has become fashionable to include the world and their wife on their views of the poor person in the hot seat and that it if they are all available. Add up the hours and check the real cost!
  4. A PDR goes against the very essence of what it takes to create and grow a successful business. It is backward looking rather than forward thinking. It is problem focused rather than opportunity seeking. It is cumbersome rather than being agile. It focuses on the same base questions every year and let’s face it…if you were outstanding at customer service last year, the likelihood is you will be outstanding this year…so why does it continue to appear on the stock, standard forms.
  5. The reviews very rarely get used for anything useful like seeing where patterns in problem behaviours or knowledge, or where resources are not in place when people are unable to achieve their goals; where recruitment may need reviewing as people are joining without having the skills their proclaim to have.

So, what is the answer?

  1. Development is not an annual or bi-annual ‘thing’, so why measure it as such? Instead, get into the habit and regular practice of having 20 minute 1-2-1 slots with each team member every couple of weeks. These should be touch base meetings, for the benefit of the employee where you offer support, advise and mentor as well as listening to challenges, ideas and suggestions. Sure, some 1-2-1’s may need to be changed and some may be missed completely but as long as this is not the norm your team will feel valued. And as for performance, when you spot something being done well – say so, in the moment. Take the time to explain what was good. Likewise, if someone is struggling or hasn’t performed as you would hope, tackle it straight away. Offer to help, ask what other options the person could have adopted, check that it isn’t systems or processes that have affected the outcome. Deal with it there and then and then move on. ONLY if there are repeated patterns and ONLY then if you know for sure there are no root causes you are missing, is there a need to make this more formal.
  1. When you do set goals with your team members (and we should all have goals we work towards every year both at work and in our personal lives), ask the team to base these around the team/department/company goals. For example…if your company goal is to increase turnover by £1m in the next 12 months….what can your employee do differently that might contribute to this? It could be through additional networking in relevant places to make more client contacts. It could be by asking a current client contact for a referral to other colleagues. It could even be a simple as learning more about the client’s industry so that the employee can demonstrate value during client meetings. A good tool to adapt and link this to is the Balanced Scorecard which ensures there is balance between soft and hard skills/contribution and can be applied company wide, regardless if job function.
  1. Make sure every goal is measurable and that you agree the measures upfront. How will you know the person has succeeded and how will you know whether the goal has contributed to the overall direction and growth of the company?
  1. Continually set new goals as the old ones are achieved. Individuals and companies that succeed are those that are continually striving to improve themselves and who continually take action. Not those who think, I’ve done my quota for the year – I can put my feet up and breeze now.
  1. Remuneration should ideally be separate from any performance or development reviews. How much attention do you think your team are paying to any performance related information when they are waiting to hear what their salary is increasing to. If you don’t operate on the basis of an annual % across the board, other than for promotions, then line manager feedback should form part of your rationale.


I guarantee, done properly and with authenticity, you will see continual improvement and positive results individually, departmentally and from a company perspective through adopting this approach! There is one caveat however. Company goals must also be clear, tangible, measurable and be sufficiently compelling that everyone is pulling in the same direction to achieve them.

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